Boyan Slat: How we will rid the oceans of plastic (May 2017)

Boyan Slat: How we will rid the oceans of plastic (May 2017)

[Applause] what if there were an even better way to clean the ocean for the past two years we’ve been working on something that will make that possible what we’re about to show you looks like nothing you’ve seen before and I’m so glad we can finally share it with you here tonight but before we get to the answer let’s go back and ask ourselves why it is so important that we succeed in ridding the oceans of plastic so there are five areas in the world where ocean currents concentrate the plastic and the largest one of these accumulations is the the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is the one halfway between Hawaii and California and here’s a graph showing the concentration of plastic in that grey Pacific Garbage Patch going from say the 1950s 1960s on the Left all the way to very recently and I think this is the one image that shows what it’s all about it’s getting worse fast and that’s actually not the only thing we can see from this graph we also see that the plastic is accumulating it stays there and that is a very important observation because that means that really the only way to make that that line go down again is to actually go out there and clean it up it simply will not go away by itself it’s persistent and to illustrate this this precision see I brought along a few examples of the one and a half million pieces that we took out of the ocean last year so let’s start with this one so so this may like look like a like a random piece of plastic too but it’s actually the back side of a mini Gameboy and if you look closely in it you can see that it reads Nintendo 1995 so this this one piece of plastic is basically is all desire and so here’s actually here’s a photo of me back in 95 I clearly do not look like this anymore at least I hope is clear but after two decades this piece of plastic remains relatively unchanged now let’s go back even further in time to 1989 you may remember it as the year that the Berlin Wall fell but that actually wasn’t the only thing that happened that year no it was also the year that somewhere in Japan this hard hat was made now and don’t forget business stuff that we took out of the ocean last year so it’s pretty recent stuff and well can I get even older what we see here is a is a crate which presumably was used to to hold soft drink bottles and if you look at the date on it you can see that it reads 1977 so this thing is 40 years old 40 years now 1977 was the year Elvis Presley left the building for good presumably and 1937 was also the year for my fellow nerds the year that Jobs was presented the original Apple 2 at the West Coast computer cell and then when you look at these look at these smallest pieces the circled microplastics we estimate that these may have been large objects when they entered the oceans they in the in the in the 50s or 60s but due to sunlight plastic becomes more brittle as the decades passed and then it starts to break up into these small but very dangerous pieces dangerous because the contents of this dish are the actual stomach contents of a single feature so that was found dead in Oregon last year so so not only this the plastics stay in the ocean but it also becomes more more harmful over time and to be honest this is what scares memo’s because right now according to our latest data from promoting expeditions that we did only about 3% of the plastics are these slow pieces but most of it is still locked up in the loading route in these large objects still because of course what will happen over the next few decades that all these large objects will start breaking down into this small and dangerous micro plastics as well increasing the amount of micro plastics dozens of times unless we clean it up we must diffuse this ticking time bomb and that has been my mission ever since I found at the ocean cleanup four years ago a lot has happened in those four years it all began with one simple idea instead of going after the plastic we let the plastic come to us saving time energy and cost by using the natural ocean currents to our advantage we can let the ocean clean itself I envision a network of extremely long floating screens which would first concentrate the plastic so we could then extract it store it before we would then ship it to land for recycling and so the idea was to use a a closed screen instead of Nets we could avoid the bycatch of Scylla and we then showed that with a single 100 kilometer stream we will be able to clean up about 42% of this Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years time but to to turn this dream into reality we first needed some funding so we did this this little crowdfunding campaign is anyone here in support of that well but seriously guys if if you hadn’t had the guts to to support us at such an early stage now the ocean cleanup simply wouldn’t exist and I’ll be forever grateful for that so thank you thank you very much [Applause] but how do you go about engineering something that is you know this new and this uncertain now what we set out to do wasn’t to to simply improve upon an existing machine now we set out to to develop an entirely new category of machine and because there are so many unknowns we you cannot expect that the Machine you you designed to work exactly the way you want to do the first time around you have to do it iteratively so what you do is that you you test you you research your tests you sometimes fill and then you learn and you repeat until you make it work and that’s what we did so first we really had to understand the problem so to do that we organized a series of reconnaissance missions some of these were were aimed at determining until what depth the ocean has to be cleaned which turned out to be just a few meters and then we had to find out how much plastic is out there to clean up so we organized the largest ocean research expedition ever crossing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch with 30 vessels at the same time to produce the first high resolution mass of the plastic pollution and when crews observed that most of the plastic is actually really big stuff we decided to cross the area again at this time with an airplane using the world’s most advanced sensors we scanned the ocean surface for objects up to 10 meters in size and this is actually the first time anyone conducted an aerial survey of open ocean Garbage Patch and in parallel we conducted hundreds and hundreds of scale model experiments gradually improving the concept test by test and this was then followed by our first ocean prototype which we successfully deployed on the North Sea last year and while conducting these tests we of course stays hurdles now that’s what iterative engineering is all about it’s why we do these tests in the first place and it was the complexity of anchoring the system to the seabed which was the biggest hurdle of the moment solving the hurdle required a breakthrough and it is this breakthrough that we are presenting to you today now who would like to see what we came up with yes all right so so at the at the ocean cleanup our core principle has always been that we work with nature that we use the natural ocean currents to our advantage already during my very first presentation back in 2012 I asked the audience why go after the plastic if the plastic can come to you but now we’re taking this idea one step further saying well to catch the plastic act like the plastic okay let me explain it will make sense in the in a human so because we are completely reliant on the ocean current it’s really important that we understand them in in great detail not just at the surface but also underwater from surface to seabed so of course we’ve been we’ve been modeling these ocean currents and while we were doing this we hit upon something which would have a profound impact on the design let’s have a look at this this graph here what we see here is the the relation between the of the current and the depth of the ocean so what we see here is that the surface the card is relatively relatively quick so if we get a current speed of about 17 18 centimeters per second and then if we go only a few hundred meters deeper we already get to say a speed of 3 4 centimeters per second so you know a huge difference so the simply said the water moves faster the surface moves slow the deeper you go and then we were like wait a minute what if instead of fixing the system to the seabed we fix it here in this deeper water layer we imagine suspending a large object in this deeper water layer effectively slowing down the system of course we wouldn’t be able to to slow down the system a hundred percent this way it would start to drift but that’s entirely ok because as long as the system moves slower than the plastic as long as there is a difference in speed between the cleanup system and the plastic we will collect plastic I just think for a moment about what that would mean it would mean that we wouldn’t need to go down to four and a half kilometers of depth which is I can tell you it’s pretty deep so we don’t want to go there so the more the it would mean that we wouldn’t need to to understand how the seabed composition is so whether it’s it’s rough whether it’s clay whether it’s and it would no longer matter and it would mean that the system isn’t fixed in one direction but free to rotate and orient itself exactly in the direction the plastic is coming from so in other words it wouldn’t only be more cost-effective because that installation to put it there is easier but it would also be more efficient and who would like to see this in action that’s not for people that’s good so what you see here is a is a basin that we filled with water and what we’ve done here is we’ve basically recreated the conditions as you would find them in the ocean so we have fast guard at the surface and a slow current at depth and actually you can see that right here we have to stick with the lines attached to it you can see the lines are told at surface of fast turn here slow car at a depth and now I would like to ask Bruner one of our best scientists of the team – yes we’re here to deploy a scale model of one such cleanup system so we see an anchor here we see a barrier to service anchor a depth connected to each other and you see it starts to drift but then when we release some some plastic let’s see what happens so we see the cleanup system moves but the plastic moves too but moves faster than the cleanup system so you see Leslie coming closer to the system moving faster hitting the barrier moving towards bear in the center of the very hitting the barrier moving towards the center and you can see you know it’s catching the plastic [Applause] interestingly now that now that the clean up little drift the survivability of the system has also greatly improved I just think think about for what what would happen if if such a system would get get hit by a storm for example now originally when the when the system was still fixed to the seabed it it had to withstand all the force of the ocean pushing against it but now that the cleanup system drift we only have to absorb a fraction of that force comparison when you’re when you’re outside and you you know you kick a rock whether that rocks flies away or is fixed in the ground your toes will understand the difference now and what’s more actually the relationship between the speed of the water and the force it exerts on the system you know that’s that’s not a linear relationship it’s a crude traffic one and that is actually a very important notion because that means that if we were to slow down the system just a bit say by 1/5 of the original speed the resulting force on the system will not be 1/5 but actually 125th or what it was before and just do to illustrate this I brought along a few mooring lines as I always do so obviously here is is a is a mooring line let’s see if again this that so it looks pretty happy so this is there’s actually the sort of the normal type of mooring line you would use to to actually install a 6 cleanup system so this is what would be required to withstand the force on a on the 6 system and it didn’t collapse that’s good and now thanks to this reduction in speed we can actually now get away with just using this so so we are very confident that the system will be able to survive anything the ocean can throw it now and I think you know I think the elegance of this of this design is that we we managed to to make it even simpler now it’s so simple it just it’s just one barrier one anchor two lines connecting them and a central passive collection point to to buffer the plastic that’s it and for me from from from an engineering perspective it’s just beautiful and because the the ocean currents aren’t constantly coming from one direction you want the system to be able to to move freely and rotate in direction in the direction the plastic is is coming from and to make this possible for this reason we have now modified the ocean clean up from being one massive system into a sleep of many smaller systems and this is actually very important because that means because it’s not not just because it will be more efficient but it will also become easier to fund because even though the cleanup is now significantly less expensive it’s still likely to cost the new order of several hundred million dollars and you can imagine that that raising that amount of capital in one go is pretty hard so thanks to this thanks to this modularity instead of requiring the full funding upfront we can now gradually scale up system by system by system which of course massively increases the financial viability and this is how we’ll rid the oceans of plastic [Applause] [Applause] so so so you can imagine that when we discovered all this we felt pretty good about ourselves however there is actually one more thing yeah because we we you know we talked about how the clean up systems drift but the question was well where do they drift towards well to to answer this question we built this computer model and what we see here are basically 50 white shapes and each white shape represents one clean up system and then all these small black or blue dots that’s that’s plastic and then when we start to play this you can see that indeed these these clean up system moves around the plastic Wiggles around as well and what you’ll notice is that area starts to start to form where there’s more plastic so these these bluer areas and areas where there’s less plastic so these these darker areas and then if you look closely what you may be able to spot is that what you see this that there where there is a lot of plastic you also see a lot of cleanup systems and that is of course because the forces moving the plastic around are the same forces that move these cleanup systems around so so in other words they’re where and so the waste winds and currents we’re talking about right so in other words they’re where the plastic goes these cleanup systems automatically drift to as well and in a way it’s like a like a plastic magnet and because of this plastic magnet effect it now turns out that the concentration of plastic in front of these cleanup system is actually size to ten times higher than what they would see if they would just be fixed in a single location and that is what I meant when I said acting like the plastic [Applause] and and actually the you know the funny thing is that it’s all pretty counterintuitive because what you would expect is that the the more you slow down the system the more plastic you would collect right but actually the opposite is the case because the less you slow down the more you act like the plastic the more these cleanup systems will gravitate towards those high density zones and therefore catch more plastic well how much more plastic I hear you’re thinking we’ll get to that so what we see here is a is a map of how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will look like in 2030 if we don’t clean up now this is pretty bad okay we see that yeah in an area the size of California we already get two concentrations that are like three four times higher than what it is today and then what would the garbage patch look like if our plan succeeds well this is the result chromatic difference and now it turns out that instead of being able to clean up 42 percent of the patch in just in in 10 years time we can now actually clean up 50% of the patch in just five years time [Applause] [Music] now and remember this graphs that I showed you at the beginning but of course we also calculated what’s going to happen is our plan succeeds and let’s have a look at the results there it’s pretty incredible so well [Music] and the thing is that four years ago when I founded the ocean cleaner everyone told me that there was no way to clean up what’s really out there and the only thing you could do is avoid making it worse but to me that was just such an inspiring message you know then we all want a future that is better than the present and now we are able to show with data that we can actually make things better again and we can do this and we must do this and we will do this [Applause] so what’s next now our promise was to start the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by the end of 2020 but unfortunately we cannot keep this promise well you know you can imagine that with such a dramatic change in design this will also have some repercussions on the planning right so instead we are here to announce that we will be launching our first actual cleanup system to be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch the one that will start the ocean cleanup within the next 12 months [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Music] [Applause] [Music] [Music] oh good so especially no but now at the energy camp we’re pretty good at making computer rendering but but soon all of this can actually become reality and that reality is closer than you might think at this very moment the first parts of the system are already in production including this one the first element of the floating pipe of the octave of the barrier which is being made in in California right now but I would say that is even closer than you might think do you get it maybe even as close as behind this screen [Music] [Applause] for so that’s an anchor and you know there’s so much more I could share with you today but I think I’ll have to leave that for next time so so thank you and have a great evening everyone thank you [Applause] [Music] [Applause] [Music]

49 thoughts on “Boyan Slat: How we will rid the oceans of plastic (May 2017)

  1. None of the systems has yet to work, even if they work they are useless as more would take it's place, and in the end it would be cheaper and faster to remove most of the plastic at the entry to the ocean. Not to mention most of the plastic is below the surface, where his systems don't work at all.

  2. why the fuck is there 202 dislikes are u guys retarded hes trying to save the planet dont know why there is 202 dislikes wholy shit

  3. And guess what? The prototype was released. Did not catch a single plastic. The plastic enters the prototype once in a while. But doesnt stay there.

  4. When he said there was just one more thing, I was expecting him to pull an ocean cleanup system out of a manila folder.

  5. Never trust people in jackets and this just money controlling. What happened to the problem and the project. Right nothing special.

  6. 23:16 His eyes got wet?
    He's a boy with lot of guts and sincerity towards Earth. He should be given a Nobel prize

  7. Great job in helping the ocean plastic trash. But I can't help but thought I was watching an Apple presentation where Steve Jobs is presenting one of their new products. Just seems over done and "oh look how cool my product is". Kinda weird, something that shouldn't take no more then 10 minutes to explained turned into 30 minute event.

  8. Please research “plant based cellulose” the replacement for plastic is plant based cellulose!
    Focus on 13:14 (min:sec) of the video!
    The video I sent you contact the headquarters of big companies such as Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, Nestle, P&G, etc…. and gently talk them into the replacement for plastic, which is “Plant Based Cellulose”! Please contact governments of China, India, and a lot more others!!! Please be super active; planets future is partially on your shoulders; please don’t get frustrated and don’t do stupid things, which originate from anger! Always be kind, kindness gets you always thousand more miles!
    And plastic eating bacteria should resolve the plastic junk piles
    However, this bacteria has to be tamed!
    Also including the following way:
    Focus on 17:28 (min:sec) of the above mentioned video
    Please Distribute To all others

  9. Hi. I'm from Bangladesh. Recently a legendary invention has been done by Bangladeshi scientist. The product is biodegradable poly film. It is not plastic film. It is looked like poly plastic but not plastic. The product is made from renewable material. It is 100% water soluble, 100% biodegradable, 100% degradable in ocean, 100% home compostable, 100% degradable in soil, 100% recyclable for many many times, no green house gas or methane gas will be produced when it will be degraded with soil. Rather when it will degraded with soil; it produces natural fertilizer which increases the fertility of land. It is eatable for animals/ocean animals/birds. Because animal stomach enzyme is capable to digest it. This bio film is stronger than any other biodegradable film/ fossil plastic/petro plastic. It is made from cellulose. Not made from starch. It is more cheap than any other starch base bio film in price and cheap like poly plastic. If the whole world use it; our ocean will be safe.

  10. it's 2019 summer and this system is still not out there doing its job
    not enough funding?
    not enough engineers? – the solution seems quite straightforward and simple

    The EU just pledged to that Swedish girl Greta 1% of its economic output to battle climate change.

    “In the next financial period from 2021 to 2027, every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards action to mitigate climate change,” Juncker said of his proposal for the EU budget, which is typically 1 percent of the bloc’s economic output, or 1 trillion euros ($1.13 trillion) over seven years.

    Wouldn't there be a few hundred million $ from that budget to get this thing out there cleaning in the next months?

    Humanity has not problem spending billions on organizing Olympics, spending on military war-toys, subsidising the invention of useless stuff we don't need but to do this they can't put their feet down and give a decent budget?

  11. This young man is a genius and he is so inspiring! I saw an interview he did with Jared Leto a few years ago and I immediately became a recycler. I had no idea the damage that was being done to the oceans with all this plastic waste. I want him to succeed at this in epic proportions. I like the earlier comment on this feed that he should team up with Elon Musk.

  12. Stupid idea! What's about marine life! It's will clean the ocean not only from plastic but also from fish and rest of marine creatures!

  13. Need Governments who could'nt be bothered and greedy companies to stop the source of pollution first – see you tube videos on polluted waterways, pollution in cities. Only time they will act is if they can profit immensely from it or collect taxes from the people who earn from it.

  14. Wow… great work… keep it up… Its just so inspiring that we from all parts of the world is working separately to save our planet from plastic pollution..

  15. How is the plastic getting in the Ocean in the first place? Perhaps stopping that process would also be good.

  16. All the nation Governments should tax the plastic companies more and use that money to fund the Ocean Cleanup to build more systems.

  17. I haven't looked into the facts of evidence in his presentation but without that it matters little to me, this effort I can get behind and support. Even if his idea doesn't give the massive bonuses he thinks it will I say every bit helps. My only concern is the effect of fish species.. like does this catch system cause damage to fish by catching them inadvertently. It's an amazing idea, a great starting point without a doubt. Amazing job young man, I hope you figure it out.

  18. Boyan Slat,
    Thank you for your good contribution
    & good solution,
    you gaved to the world.
    May the good LORD bless & keep you💖.

  19. And now two years later,our Childrens a telling us " enough is enough" and that little Greta is an objekt of hate. We shoud be proud that our Childrens being smarter than WE are

  20. Who gave this a thumbs down?

    Probably those who dont like proactive solutions and end their dreams of staying a whiny victim

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